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Posts Tagged ‘Pachinko’

The Christmas Visitor

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 19, 2012

December 22, 2011 – January 2, 2012

All Pictures

playing cards at home

Our agenda for today: 1. Go to an ATM, 2. Get a Burger, 3. Take a shower.

Tom made plans to come to Japan for Festivus/ Christmas since February 2011. Last year, Mark stayed at Tom’s place a couple of times, while getting his visa for Japan at the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They also spent last Christmas together because Mark was having some huge visa issues. I think they even had a huge Festivus party where Mark aired all his grievances against the Japanese immigration policies.

We met Tom a few years ago when we lived in Seoul and did some traveling and free biking with him. Tom still lives in Seoul, but I don’t know if he still uses the free bikes there.

So Mark and I, who are on a tight budget have been saving our pennies,.. one yen coins, for the occasion. But, when we asked Tom what sites he wanted to see while in Japan, he said he just wanted to chill out and hang with us.

We said, “Really, there’s nothing at all you want to see?”

Tom – “Well, okay, just Hiroshima and something in your town.”

So Mark and I thought that since Tom just wanted to hang out, what we would do is to take Tom to all the restaurants in town Mark and I always wanted to go, but didn’t because we are saving money. I had about four restaurants in mind, plus some we had already been to.

Playing big titris at Park Place

For the “something in our town” we took him to see Mount Aso. There is really nothing to see in Oita except for Park Place, the biggest mall this side of Kyushu. And yes, we did take him to see Park Place.  There we ran into some of my students. I introduced them as, “my husband and a friend from Korea.” My students looked quite confused.

Students – Pointing to Tom “husband” pointing to Mark “韓国人”

Me – “No.” Pointing to Mark “husband” pointing to Tom “friend from Korea”.

They gave me funny looks, but smiled and walked away after the standard “nice-to-meet-chu’s.”

You’d think it would be warmer near a live volcano…

So rather than writing more about places I’ve already been to and blogged about before, some more than once, I will just write about the two unique events from this vacation.

Look at all his winnings!

Event #1: Tom Plays Pachinko.

Tom wanted to celebrate finally having money in Japan. Before he left Korea, Mark and I told him that getting non-Japanese bank cards and credit cards to work in Japan is very hard. But, he was running late when going to the airport in Korea and thought that he would just get some money at an ATM at Fukuoka airport.

That did not work. He called his card company and they tried to help him, but the ATM he needed was not at the airport. He didn’t have any yen and could not even pay for a subway ride to the train station. He was stuck at the airport.

Tom in Hell

Frustrated, he called me to tell me that he would just take another flight back to Seoul. That was when some lady, who overheard him talking to his card company earlier, handed him a 10,000 yen note (equivalent to a hundred dollars). When Tom asked the lady for her address so that he could repay her later, she told him to, “just go to Oita, and later, do something nice for someone else.”

For his next few days Tom had been calling his card company trying to figure this whole thing out. In the mean while, Mark and I paid for all his stuff. We weren’t sure if Tom would ever get any money in Japan. But, we didn’t care if he did. Tom had been so hospitable to Mark when they were in Korea earlier in the year.

Then one day someone from the card company asked if Tom had tried the 7-11 ATM. We went out to try it, and it worked. Well, first Tom tried it and it didn’t work. Then he called the card company again and they thought about it and figured that Tom might have asked for more cash than the daily limit. After that it worked.

The moral of this story is, if you go to Japan call your bank and ask what ATM’s you can use, then bring a bunch of cash.

“I’m tired from all this winning.”

So, the day that Tom finally had his own cash, he wanted to go to a pachinko parlor. So we went.

Everyone put 1,000 yen (~10 bucks) into their machine. Once it spat out a bunch of shiny balls into our baskets we started to play. Mark was the first one to lose all his money balls. He was out within 10 minutes of playing. I hovered the drain for about 30 minutes, then I was out.

Then I looked at Tom. He had 2 baskets filled with shiny gold balls.

Me – “Oh my god Tom, are you winning?”

Tom – “I guess.”

Me – “How are you doing this?”

Tom – “I don’t know. That lady told me to hold this nob like so and tap this button like this. Balls just keep fallin’ out.”

Me – “Wow. I lost all my balls.”

Tom – “Feel free to play with my balls. They’re very shiny!”

Mark and I continued to play, grabbing hand-fulls of Tom’s balls. We tried to copy what Tom was doing, but it didn’t work for us.

“I won some dessert and novelty coins!”

When Tom finally got tired of playing, or actually, when Tom started to lose, we stopped. We looked around for someone to help us turn in the balls. An employee ran over to us and poured his balls into a machine. It printed out a receipt.

The lady pointed to another woman behind a counter. He gave the receipt to her. She handed Tom a red bean cake and a small case with some weird coins. Tom was delighted with his prizes. We were happy for him.

We headed towards the exit with thoughts of dinner. Our friend just won some strange coins from a pachinko parlor. Who would believe that?

Then a guy in uniform ran after us. We turned to look at him, wondering what was going on. I mentioned wanting to use the bathroom as we were walking out and thought that he was showing us where the facilities were.

He took us through the casino and out a different door. There was no bathroom out that door, but he pointed to a little window. It looked like a teller’s window for a very shy clerk.

Is this another ATM?

All you could see was a pair of women’s hands. The uniform guy gestured for Tom to put his coin case through the window. The coins were taken and cold hard cash replaced it. Tom got 5,000 yen. He won actual money!

We all agreed that money was better than strange coins.

in front of Miyajima’s Torii

Event #2: Itsukushima Shrine – OMG are we in a line?

We went to the Itsukushima Shrine on New Year’s day. The shrine is on an island called Miyajima near the city of Hiroshima. It has an iconic gate where tourist gather to take photos. It is also a place where many religious Japanese go on New Year’s day to pray and ask god, or whoever for favors.

in the crowd

It was beautiful and crowded; so very crowded. We were just walking along one of the streets as the crowd of people gradually got thicker. We stood there for about 15 minutes slowly making our way forward when we realized that we were in a line for something. We had no idea what it was, but if this many people wanted to see it, it must be good.

It ended up being the Itsukushima shrine itself. After this Mark and I and Tom split up. Tom wanted to take photos of things and Mark and I wanted to get some omiyage, or souvenirs, for our co-workers.

It was nice, but because of the crowd we felt a bit intimidated. The Japanese are generally known for their politeness, but crowds are always the exception. We spend a lot of time hiding out in a nice, but highly overpriced well heated coffee shop. It was nice, almost empty, but the prices were steep.

I recommend going on a non-religious holiday.

To Tom!

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Beppu Hell Onsen
(Beppu Jigoku)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°18’57.2″N 131°28’10.8″E

From Oita City –

  • Head north on route 10.
  • Turn left on route 500. (The turn is just before the Las Vagas pachinko parlor.)
  • Keep on 500,
  • then turn right at the light after the intersection with route 218. You should see lot of steam rising from the ground.
  • Park anywhere that’s reasonable.
  • Six of the Hell osens are within walking distance of each other.
  • There are two others that are about a 5 minute drive from the directions given above.

By Bus –

  • Take bus #2, #5, #9, #41, or #43 from JR Beppu Station to the Umijigoku-mae stop


There are 8 Hell Onsens. Seven of which, are within a walking distance from each other. The other two are a bus or car ride away. Please ask at the ticket counter for bus information.

  1. Oniishibozu Jigoku (鬼石坊主地獄)
  2. UmiJigoku (海地獄)
    • 別府地獄めぐり
      〒874-0000 大分県別府市大字鉄輪559−1
  3.  Yama Jigoku (山地獄)
  4. KamadoJigoku (かまど地獄)(Cooking Pot Hell)
    • かまど地獄
      〒874-0045 大分県別府市御幸5
  5. Oniyama Jigoku (鬼山地獄)
  6. Shiraike Jigoku (白池地獄)
  7. Tatsumaki Jigoku (龍巻地獄)
  8. ChinoikeJigoku (血の池地獄) (BloodOnsen)
    • 別府 血の池地獄
      野田778 Beppu, Oita Prefecture 874-0016, Japan


  • 0977-66-1577

Website (Blood Onsen)



  • 400YEN each or
  • 2,000YEN for all 8


  • 8:00 – 17:00
  • Go to Tatsumaki-Jigoku (the onsen with the geyser last if you’re running out of time because this one stays open later so that visitor can see the geyser blow at the end of the day.)


  • It might not be worth a trip all the way to Beppu just to see this. But if you are in Oita prefecture, why not?
  • You cannot get into any of the hell onsen. There are a couple that you can put your feet into, but no full body soaking.

Kitahama Termas Onsen

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 33°17’09.5″N 131°30’18.5″E

By Car –

  • Drive to Beppu at way of route 10 which is also route 52 through downtown Beppu.
  • It’s along route 10/52 and across the street from a pachinko parlor; what isn’t in Japan? The nearby landmarks near would be Beppu Central Hostipal and a short swimmable section of beach.

By Public Transportation –

  • Go to Beppu Station.
  • Exit through the east end of the station.
  • Head east until you reach route 10.
  • Then go north on route 10 until you pass Beppu Central Hospital.
  • Cross the street and look out for the osen.


11-1, Kyo Beppu




  • 0977-24-4126



  • Adult – 500JPY
  • Kids – 250JPY
  • You can bring your own towel, razor, or what have you, or you can rent them.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and soap are free.
  • Parking is free


  • 10:00 – 22:00
  • Admittance ends at 21:00


  • This is a co-ed onsen, so you must wear a swimsuit when you go outdoors. You can go naked in the gender segregated areas.
  • Every now and then they change the gender of the locker rooms. So don’t head off to change in one direction that was the lady’s area the last time you came.
  • You will need to have a 100 yen coin to put your shoes in a small locker in the main lobby. Everyone must have their own locker and you will get your coin back when you retrieve your shoes.
  • Give your shoe locker key to the front desk clerk and he or she will give you a corresponding key to the lockers in the gender segregated area. Put your stuff in that locker.
  • Take a shower. Put on your swim suit and head outdoors.
  • There is also a sauna and a bucket of freezing cold water that you can torture yourself with.

 Mount Aso 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 32°53’12.7″N 131°05’03.0″E

From Oita City by car –

  • Take route 10 south. Follow 10 to Inukai.
  • Then get on Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose).
  • There are 2 Route 57’s. If you get on the wrong one it doesn’t matter. They both basically* go the same place. One is just more windy than the other.
  • *Route 57 (Inukai-Chitose) will end somewhere in Onomachi Tanaka. When this happens just head north on route 26 to route 57 (Higo Highway).
  • Once you’ve left Oita Prefecture and you’ve passed the windy mountain area look out for route 111. Take a left onto route 111.
  • For Aso Mountain take route 111 all the way to the toll road, where 111 ends. You can then take the cable car up for 1,000YEN round trip/ person or drive up the toll road for 560YEN/ car.
  • For Komezuka turn right onto route 298. You should see Komezuka in 1 kilometer.



  • Cable Car Ride – 600Yen one way, 1,000Yen round trip
  • To drive up to the top – 560YEN per car


  • The toll road and cable car to Mount Aso are open 9:30 to 16:30 when the weather permits.
about volcanoes:


  • Don’t go in the winter to avoid the chances of you going all the way out there only to find that it’s closed due to snow.
  • It is recommended that people with asthma, bronchitis, or heart disease should not go to the top of Mount Aso.

by bus

How to get there:

The bus stop for this bus is across the street from the Tokiwa near Oita Station, in front of the Forus.



  • Oita to Hiroshima – 5,700YEN or
  • 4,750YEN with a group discount


  • Bus leaves Oita at 10:09 and gets to Hiroshima at 16:12


  • There is a bathroom on the bus.
  • The ticket for this bus ride includes a boat ride from Kyushu to Honshu. But you can buy tickets for the boat alone.

K’s House

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°23’33.0″N 132°28’25.7″E

The nearest Station is Hiroshima Station.


1-8-9, Matoba-cho,
Minami-ku, Hiroshima city,
Japan 732-0824


  • +(81)-82-568-7244


e-mail: hiroshima@kshouse.jp


  • Depends on the room, but Dorm rooms are 2,500YEN/ night.


  • the doors are lock after a certain hour. I don’t remember what time.


  • No free parking, but there is paid parking nearby. Ask about the cheaper weekend parking areas.

Hiroshima Peace Park

How to get there:

  • 34°23’34.1″N 132°27’08.1″E
  • Take the tram #2, 3, 6 or 7 to Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome-Mae)
  • This will put you right in front of the dome.
  • From there you can cross the bridge and head south to see the park, the museums, and other monuments.


  • Memorial Hall

1-6 Nakajima-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
(in the Peace Memorial Park)


  • Peace Museum

Peace Memorial Museum
1-2 Nakajimama-cho,
Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
730-0811, Japan

Peace Memorial Museum
広島平和記念資料館 啓発担当



  • Most are free.
  • The Peace Museum cost 50Yen to enter.


  • The park is always open.
  • The museum and hall’s times are 8:30 – 17:00.

Itsukushima Shrine

How to get there:

  • 34°17’45.2″N 132°19’11.7″E

There are 2 main non-driving methods to get to the shrine.

1. Take the train to Miyajimaguchi Station then hop on a 10 minute ferry to  Miyajima (170Yen). You can just walk to the shrine from there.

  • This is the cheapest option, but not the quickest.
  • For crowed days, like New Year’s day, this is not a very good option. The crowd is huge and everyone is pushing their way on to the boat.
2. Take the boat from Peace Park. It costs 1,900Yen on way. But, don’t toss your ticket when you get to the island. When you show your old ticket you will get a discount for your return trip (1,500Yen).
  • Link for Schedule
  • The more expensive option, but it’s really easy.
  • No crowd. The boat can only fit a few people.
  • But, because the boat is small, tickets do get sold out.



  • 350Yen to enter the temple


  • It’s a temple, so I don’t think there is an official closing time, but monks do need to sleep…



  • There are tons of temples on the island. Most of them up hills. Some up the mountain. There is even one, Sankido, that warships ogres.
  • You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain for some great views (1,800Yen round trip).
  • There are lots of deer just freely roaming the island. There are signs that say that they love to eat souvenirs and passports. That’s sounds implausible, but you never know.


Posted in Aso 市, Beppu 市, Hatsukaichi 市, Hiroshima 県, Hiroshima 市, Honshū, Japan, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyajima 町, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Shiny Little Balls

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

June 26, 2011

All Pictures

No establishment in Japan has parking like a pachinko parlor.

Do you want to pachinko tomorrow?

If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are that you’ve seen a pachinko parlor or two. They are everywhere, even in little boondock villages in the middle of swampy rice fields. They are always open and have plenty of parking. Many of them have little restaurants or cafes that serve food until late at night.

I have gone into many pachinko parlors, but have never stayed longer than the time needed to use the bathroom. The machines are noisy. The people are very zombie like. Everything is written in Japanese. And the whole thing is very overwhelming. So when my neighbor, Brandy, offered to go with us and show us what to do, Mark and I jumped at the chance.

I hope this ends well.

We got in and sat down at some open machines. We each put in 1,000YEN into our machines and little silver balls came out. We put those balls back into the machine with hopes of getting more silver balls. Sometimes more balls came out, but more often none did.

We ended up losing all our balls. Well, I kept one as a souvenir.  We spent one hour playing pachinko, but many people spend half their lives there. I know I used to work in a place like this.

This place is probably closed down by now.

Would you like a sandwich or some tea?

When I lived in London I needed money to pay for my flight to Japan. It was the summer and my contract in Japan started in November. So I found a job working in the “arcade” in the picture above.

It was a miracle that I got the job, because I showed up about an hour late for the interview. I somehow ended up at Victoria Station which was no where near where I needed to be. I managed to charm Wendy, the manager and was hired. (I honestly think she hired me because she liked my American accent.)

The odd thing was that I thought I would be working in a gaming arcade. You know, the kind where little kids come in and spend all their coins. What it actually was, was a casino with only slot machines.

My job was to give change, clean the machines regularly, serve coffee, tea, and sandwiches, call the hourly bingo, and basically chat up customers to make them want to stay and lose,… um, spend all their money.

“All my balls are gone!”

He asks for tea, but that’s not what he wants.

It was a pretty easy job and I liked most of the customers. One day a guy came in and asked for ” a cuppa”. Later I got to know him better and found him to be a fairly decent guy who wished to keep his anonymity. He asked to be referred to as “Ghosty” and he never wanted to talk about his life outside the arcade. But even on the first day I met him, I knew he was a bit strange.

me – “What?”

Ghosty – “a cuppa”

me – “Copper?”

Ghosty – “Ah-cup-ah”

I stared at this guy waiting for more of an explanation. He put on his best fake American accent. “I want a cup oFFFF.”

me – “A cup of what?”

Ghosty – “You know, a cuppa…”

me – “Oh, you mean tea!”

He lit up and nodded. “Yes, please.”

me – “Sure, I’ll get you some tea. Would you like milk and sugar?”

The people around me laughed. “You don’t put milk in tea dear, unless you’re Scottish. Oh Americans!” said a lady not looking away from her machine.

“I would like some milk and sugar,” Ghosty said.

So I got him some tea, with milk and sugar and handed it to him.

“What the hell’s this!?” he asked.

me – “Your tea, with milk and sugar, like you asked”

Ghosty – “But I didn’t want this!”

I stood there, completely confused. He asked for tea. I got him tea, just the way he asked for it. Then another one of the floor girls, as we were called, came by. She call me over. With her thick Polish accent she said, “Never give that man tea.”

me – “But he asked…”

“I know,” she cut me off. “He comes in everyday and asks for tea, but he doesn’t want tea. He wants coffee.”

“So why doesn’t he ask for coffee?” I asked.

“Who the hell knows! But give him coffee with 2 sugars and a little milk.” As she went back to the break room she shouted under her breath while waving her hands, “These people are driving me crazy!” She was joking… somewhat.

How could something so cute take all of my money and give me nothing in return?

But you speak English

Another day while I was on break at work, two of the floor girls came into the break room. “We need your help. You are a native English speaker; talk to this woman.” My co-workers were from Poland and Estonia. I got up and went onto the floor.

I walked over to the red headed lady they wanted me to talk to. “Could I get you anything?” I asked politely.

She replied with a bunch of rolled R’s and some cackles. What ever she was saying, she seemed to be in a good mood about it.

I walked away, turned to my friends, and told them that I couldn’t help. I had no idea what the lady was saying.

“But you speak English…”

“Yes. But that lady doesn’t. She is Scottish. Her accent is too thick for me to understand. But I guess I could try again.”

I walked over to the lady and said, “I’m sorry, could you speak a little more slowly. I’m having a hard time understanding your accent.”

It turned out she wanted an egg sandwich, but she didn’t say it like this, “I want an egg sandwich. What she said sounded more like this, “Ay won’t un eggy…” and then a word that didn’t come close to sounding like the word “sandwich”.

She then asked me how long I had lived in England. I told her that I had been in the country for over 2 years, but most of that time was spent in Manchester. I had a conversation with the Scottish lady in which I understood less than half of what she said and smiled and nodded through the rest.

Ironically enough, my grandmother’s family comes from Scotland. Her brother still lives there, but I’ve never talked to him, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t understand him any more than I understood the Egg Sandwich lady.

All Pictures



How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.







  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Any Pachinko Parlor

How to get there:

  • Go to Japan.
  • Look out your window.
  • If you don’t see a pachinko parlor you might have to go outdoors and walk in any directions for about a block or two.



  • Usually a minimum of 500 or 1,000YEN to play.


  • They NEVER close!


  • They are everywhere.
  • They have tons of free parking.
  • Never use a machine that has someone’s stuff on or near it.
  • It is not gambling. That is illegal in Japan. Pachinko is “gambling” which is quite legal.
  • Never ask where you can exchange the balls you’ve won for cash. That would make it gambling, which is illegal in Japan. Instead just look for the nondescript place outside in the back where they exchange the balls for cash. This is how “gambling” works.

Map: (Any where in Japan)

Posted in England, Japan, Kyūshū, London, Oita 県, Oita 市, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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